THURSDAY, Jan. 10, 2013 — A high-fiber diet rich in a carbohydrate called IP6 could control the progression of prostate cancerin patients diagnosed in the early stages of the disease, say researchers from the University of Colorado, who studied the phenomenon in mice.

They were particularly interested in finding out whether there might be a difference in Asian diets versus Western diets.

“We know that the prostate gland, with age, develops lesions that could manifest into cancer if other factors come into play, like diet or the environment,” says Komal Raina, PhD, research instructor at the Skaggs School of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Colorado.

“The difference is that the lesions for Asian men don’t seem to progress to the clinical, cancer stage. Therefore, there might be something from the Asian diet that stops cancer from progressing for them,” Raina explains. “Asians eat more vegetables in their diets, and Western diets are exposed to more processed foods and more fat, so those people aren’t getting as much of the IP6 component, plus they are getting more cancer triggers like saturated fats that promote the progression of tumors.”

So Raina’s team fed one group of mice who had prostate cancer IP6, or inositol hexaphosphate, a chemical found in beans, brown rice, corn, sesame seeds, wheat bran, and other high-fiber foods; a second group of mice that also had prostate cancer were not given the chemical. The researchers then monitored the progression of prostate cancer in both groups of mice using MRIs.

The mice given IP6 had dramatically reduced tumor volumes, primarily due to the fact IP6 inhibits the growth of blood vessels, the researchers believe. They concluded that a high-fiber diet may keep prostate tumors from making the new blood vessels they need to grow, and that IP6 also interferes with the uptake of glucose into the prostate tumor, which can halt tumor growth because tumors need energy to rapidly divide and multiply.

The study was published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

While the study focused only on mice and not on human subjects, it adds to a body of research on indicating the importance of dietary fiber in preventing or mitigating a number of health conditions.

Dietary fiber from whole grains, fruit, and vegetables can help both men and women with everything from constipation, lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar, and reducing the risk of serious illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. Here are some easy ways to boost your diet with fiber.

High-fiber foods can also help you lose weight. Researchers at Tufts University found that people who consumed an additional 14 grams of fiber a day ended up eating 10 percent fewer calories than before. In another study, researchers at University Hospital in London, Ontario, used detailed food diaries to compare the fiber intake of study participants at different weights. They found that those who maintained a healthy weight ate 30 percent more fiber than overweight participants.

Experts recommend a daily goal of 25 to 35 grams of fiber — more than double the 12 grams most of us consume.